Council To Meet Seven Weeks In A Row For Zoning Change Votes Before New Councilors Are Seated

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On November 18, Council President Lynn Griesemer (District 2) announced that she has added two additional meetings of the Town Council on November 29 at 6:30 and December 13 at 7:30. She stated that she has received affirmation that the council would be able to achieve a quorum on those dates, though some councilors have indicated that they will not be able to attend these extra sessions.

The addition of these two meetings means that the Council will have met for seven Mondays in a row, from November 8 until December 20. The extra meetings will allow the council to vote on several zoning amendments that have been discussed over the past year, prior to the installation of the newly elected council.

A reconsideration of the referral to the Community Resources Committee (CRC) of the proposed bylaw for a temporary moratorium on new large-scale solar projects will be discussed on November 22. 

Four other bylaws will receive a first reading on November 29 and a vote on December 6. These include a one-year extension of temporary zoning due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Article 14), revisions to the mixed-use building bylaw (Article 3, Section 3.325), revisions to the parking and access requirements (Article 7), and rezoning of parcel 33 behind CVS to create a parking garage overlay. The two sponsors of the parking garage proposal, Councilors George Ryan (District 3) and Evan Ross (District 4) both lost their bids for reelection, though Ross has requested a recount in his close defeat.

The council will receive recommendations from the Town Services and Outreach (TSO) Committee regarding funding the Department of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and the Community Responders for Equity, Safety, and Service (CRESS) program on December 13, after TSO holds a public forum on December 9. The vote on the two programs is slated for December 20. 

Other topics to be discussed at the remaining meetings of this term are lunch carts and parking fee enforcement (November 22 and December 6), reports on the design of the Pomeroy Center intersection and parking on Kendrick Place (November 29), the proposed performance shell on the South Common (December 6), and parking and traffic changes near Kendrick Park (December 13).

The following items were removed from consideration by the council in this term:

  • Crosswalks in North Amherst (at intersection of North Residential Drive, Crestview Apartments, Northern Driveway to Puffton Village, and Fisher Street, and remove crosswalk at Fairfield. 
  • Flood Maps 
  • Demolition Delay Bylaw proposed revisions 
  • North Common update, timeline, and the budget 
  • Parking Fees 
  • Associate Members of the ZBA Vacancies 
  • North Pleasant Street crosswalk (Change in MA DOT Shared Street Grant work plan) (New Crosswalk near Garcia’s and Kendrick Park 

Griesemer indicated that meeting plans may change if more councilors indicate that they cannot attend the added sessions and achieving a quorum may not be possible.

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7 thoughts on “Council To Meet Seven Weeks In A Row For Zoning Change Votes Before New Councilors Are Seated

  1. Why this rush to vote on Councilor George Ryan’s and Councilor Evan Ross’s proposal for a parking garage overlay for the Town lot catercornered behind the CVS before they both (if the District 4 recount changes nothing) leave Town Council?

    I heard Planning Department Director Christine Brestrup discuss the matter a few months ago at a Library Trustees’ meeting. It sounded ill-considered: severely curtailed space for the necessary ramps; too few net new parking spaces unless the garage is 5 stories high; substantially more traffic on a narrow, residential street. As I recall, Director Brestrup took no position on the proposed project. This seemed wise.

    Town Council seems to be cramming a great number of crucial, long-term decisions into a severely compressed time frame. It is hard to keep up. As Maura Keene reports above, the list includes rezoning for this proposed parking garage, three other proposed bylaws, and more. These four bylaws are to receive their first reading on 29 November, with votes a week later, and more. Evidently, however, it is still unclear whether we even need this proposed parking garage. Why rezone unless and until it’s clear that we do?

  2. None of these 4 zoning amendments were voted on as Town Council Priorities last January. And the parking amendment and rezoning of the town lot on North Prospect Street are new amendments that showed up unexpectedly this summer. The mixed use amendment has gone through drastic revisions since the planning dept proposed it in late March and frankly needs much more work. None have any urgency except Article 14. So it’s hard to understand why the Town Council leadership is pushing them through. They could easily be voted on in January or February with more time to reflect on them.

  3. It seems fair and logical that from today (November 23) through January 3 ( 5 new councilors are installed), that no new bylaws are created, and no push for a garage / overlay by 2 councilors that were just voted out of office. Good luck to them, but clearly there is no mandate for this hurried and chaotic plan. I call on Evan Ross and George Ryan to stop pushing for a garage in the CVS lot, and let’s have a fuller look at the best location, with the least disruption of historic neighborhoods, easier in and out, more obviously located.

    Really, to double up on meetings to get things rushed through seems unseemly.

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